Tuesday, May 19, 2009

18 May 2009

Fog is moderately heavy today over the ponds. It creeps back and forth between ridges, and obscures my view from time to time. This makes the sunrise magical. 
Somewhere in almost every direction is a bird telling me to drink my tea. And a short distance behind me a tom reminds us all that it is spring.
Some mornings are like this; I never see anything. But the sounds and sights are enough to calm even the most despairing of souls. A steady dose once a day of four to five hours will turn anyone into a Zen master. My name is Tracy, and I am addicted to nature. 
The sun is hotter than usual, and not a cloud in the sky. I do try to sit in the shade to hide myself better, but little rays always poke through and find me now and again. The sun burns hotter, and the fog slowly begins to rise up, up, up, almost to the top of the tree line before it finally disappears. Everything is damp.
I need two of some mornings. Today is one of them. Off in the distance I can barely make out the sound of an old water pump. And today would be a good sound day because for some reason the city is quiet. Maybe it's the dense air, or the way the wind is blowing--I don't know but these are my favorite days. Once again, the water pump. But as some of you know, it's not a water pump at all, but the mating call of the American bittern. He pauses for a few minutes between sets. And after about an hour, he moves about 1/4 mile closer and I can clearly hear his song. 

15 May 2009

The day after a rainstorm has always brought me luck, and today is no exception. Because Wednesday was clear I have the timing right: up at 4 am and in the field by 4:45. As usual, the Whip-poor-wills and Nighthawks serenade my night hike.
I arrive in darkness, and plop down where I sat two days prior and wait. Mist forms out over the distant pond, and ebbs back and forth in the field below. I love this time of year. Fog is a filmmaker's friend. It deadens the subject's sense of smell and often they come in closer to try and figure me out.
A monstrous buck ascends the ridge next to me. He looks as though someone smashed two cupcakes on top of his head. He stands on his hind legs to reach leaves in a nearby tree, then begins to follow the game trail towards me. At about 30 feet he knows something isn't right. He looks and looks, stomps his front leg and bobs his head. I sit completely still: even watching him with one eye closed. He snorts a little -- trying to get my scent. Nothing. After some time, he finally decides he doesn't like what he sees, and flicks his tail and walks away. 
Only minutes pass and reinforcements arrive up on the ridge. The cupcake buck is joined by two others: a second buck with tall, bifurcated antlers, and a yearling. All three are still in their winter brown drab. Once again, they move in close to investigate. The tall-antlered male moves in first, while cupcake hangs back with the yearling. Just what is this thing? Moving very slowly, I manage to swing my camera around to get a few shots. It's a repeat performance: head bobbing, snorting, and foot stomping. Reluctantly, they turn and half-heartedly leap through the grass. I still don't think they quite figured me out.
As always the odd turkey shows up to forage in the field. There are so many turkey on the park I've stopped filming them unless they're doing something other than eating.
A pair of Brown thrashers have been dutifully visiting a clump of shrubs all morning. When I go over to investigate, the loud wail of a fire station siren goes off. Wait. There, not more than a half-mile from me is a group of coyote pups howling. It's good to know they're nearby. So aside from all the other city noise, I always welcome the sound of a fire station siren.

13 May 2009

The first day out is always a disaster. Trying to figure out the exact timing of when to get out in the field always takes a day or so. I wake at 4:30 only to hear the Robins singing already. My goal is to be set up in the field before first light: which on a clear day is an hour before sunrise.
I arrive at the park and scurry to put on my camo, and gather my camera gear. Hiking into the woods at night always is a little creepy--but I at least have the moon to keep me company. 
Whip-poor-wills sing their incessant song, occasionally punctuated by a Nighthawk's 'meep'. The most faint light is on the horizon now--so I'm late. I struggle to adjust the tripod over my crossed knees. Sitting on the ground seems to work best this early in the season; until the grasses become too tall. Somewhere off in the distance, across the bay is the roaring sound of what could be a jet engine. I'm guessing it's Erie Coke. It's amazing how all the city noises make their way over to the park, and make sound recording quite impossible most of the time.
The first visitor to the field is a hen turkey, busily feeding for the upcoming nesting season. After about 30 minutes she disappears into the brush and not a moment later 3 jakes come strutting right down the middle of the trail, making a fuss the entire way. But there's gobbling off in the distance, and a few minutes later two toms come up over the ridge. A chase ensues. Wether this is play or aggression -- I have no idea. Round and around the field: around trees and clumps of bayberry shrubs. Just watching them run makes me laugh. The pursuant never catches the jake, and each group goes their separate ways. I can only imagine this was a turf battle over mates.
By now, it's 10 am, and I'm stiff from sitting in one place for so long. The Wild lupine is beginning to open here and there, and I can't wait for the spectacle that is to come. This is the most Wild lupine I've seen in this area in ten years. A Ruby-throated hummingbird even pays a visit. It's warming up, and time to go.